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Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

From Mexican to Turkish – the rise and fall of soap operas

Written by  Oct 19, 2020

What has happened to Mexican soap operas? I mean where are they, they have disappeared from our TV screens. There was a time when every grandmother in Dubrovnik was glued to their screens all early evening watching Esmeralda or La usurpadora.

Every soap opera seemed to have the same actors, Gabriela Spanic who spent half the time crying and the other half with a face like she had lost her car keys, and Fernando Colunga, who reminded me of Joey from Friends.

They have all vanished from our screens. Not that I’m sad but now I know why children aren’t speaking Spanish anymore. Walk through a side street of the Old City as the sun was setting and all you could hear drifting from open windows was “Mi Amor” and “Te quiero.” As grannies got their daily fix of love and passion Mexican style. I didn’t even know they had been cut until my mother-in-law visited for a week.

I really can’t remember the last time I watched one of the main TV stations, it’s all Netflix and streaming for me nowadays, I’d even forgotten what the HRT logo looked like. “Oh, it’s 8 o’clock quick turn on the TV,” said my mother-in-law, “We’ll see what they’ll cook tonight.” It appeared that Spanic and Colunga had been replaced by Večera za 5 na selu (Dinner for 5 in the country) quickly followed by Superpar.

“Why don’t you watch those Mexican Telenovela soaps anymore,” I asked. “Uff, when did I even watch them,” she answered.

“Oh, The Biggest Loser is coming back soon,” she cheered as an advert appeared in the middle of her favourite cooking show. And then all of a sudden the volume on the TV went to mute, silence in the house. Had she turned the TV off? No. “Why did you turn the volume right down?” I asked. “I can’t listen to their voices, Uff, almost as bad as German,” she slid her chair closer to the screen so she could read the subtitles.

Looked like a scene from Istanbul. What was she watching now? Ok, now I understand Mexican soap operas have been replaced by Turkish ones. Same format, probably similar story line just different looking actors. Colunga and Spanic had been replaced by Yeşilçay and Burak Dakak.

Again actors spending unusually long periods of time looking at each other or off into the distance and every two minutes someone was crying. “What’s it called,” I asked. “Gulperi…sshhh I am reading,” she answered.

Quite by chance a few days later I tuned into the BBC and was surprised to see a soap opera that was a hit when I left the island. It’s set in London and called EastEnders. To my even bigger surprise was the fact that I even recognised a few of the actors. Now, the last time I watched this was over 22 years ago and the same bloody actors were in it then. There was even one actor who had been in the soap opera since it first started, and to give you some context the first ever episode was aired in 1985!

My first thought was thank God they don’t show EastEnders on Nova TV as my mother-in-law would be glued to that as well. It is basically a London version of Esmeralda, but instead of tequila and coffee they drink warm beer and tea.

The week long mother-in-law visit passed and the TV went silent again, or should I say Večera za 5 na selu was replaced by Netflix dramas and football matches. But then my mobile rang, “Oh, turn on the TV a new week of Večera za 5 na selu has started and all the contestants are fat…looks like The Biggest Loser has started early,” she laughed down the phone line.


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